Constantin Brancusi, Untitled (Head of a Young Woman). 1910 (See image here: MOMA)
JR: Tell me about the object you’ve selected. Who is the artist? When did you first encounter it?
RW: This photo of a sculpture of the head of a young woman was taken by Constantin Brancusi in 1910. I find this photo at the website of the MoMA which is the Museum of Modern Art. When I first look at this picture I know it is the object I want to find. The view of the back side of the woman is so realistic for me at first glance. This kind of realistic feeling is different from the feeling we can get from those highly detailed still life and portrait painting. It is not expressed externally to suggest the connection between the artwork and phenomenal world but is something exist intrinsically and just like everyone have their own quality that exists in itself. When I keep looking at this photo, I can see there is something valuable, not simply a particular quality that only exists in a single object, but is something like a sort of the beauty of female or even male that I can trace in the history and find the relevant objects that are shared characteristics. I can trace the history from “Women from Brassempouy” and “Woman from Willendorf” to “Phrasikleia Kore” …… until the music of Clair de lune that played by Jorg Demus. But this photo does not give me a feeling that just end it here, but give a sense of hope or direction to look at for the future. Just like when I look at the back side of the woman, I am waiting for her turn back and to see the front side of her, this gives me a sort of passion to explore the secret of beauty that hide in the dark.
JR: Can you tell me more about how you connect this sculpture (and the other sculptures/figurines you mentioned) with the Debussy piano piece?
RW: It is hard to explain those connections in my mind because of the complicated cognitive activity is hard to be articulated explicitly. But I consider there are some same virtues that exist in those sculptures and music, and it inspires me to relate them together. The music played by Demus gives me a sort of feeling just like the photo of the women. I think the substance of the object is consistent with the form, although the music and photography have different art forms, they share some same virtues in their substances. Beauty for me is the most complicated conception and it is hard to explain it just by descriptive language.
JR: What do you make of the positioning of the head? The way the neck is bent forward and the eye seems focused downward?
RW: I think the gesture of the woman has a certain similarity with the woman gesture of classical ancient Greek sculpture. But it also differs from the women sculpture of ancient Greek, it contains a certain virtue of independence that is lacked in ancient Greek sculpture of women. Her shoulder is relaxing down and her head looked down slightly. But I do not feel the laziness and obedience from this gesture, but a sort of peacefulness and dignity. She is silence, but not because of the conventional requirement of female obedience and silence. From the photo, we can only see part of the facial feature that is not realistic carving but simplifying the facial feature to express the beauty of female and virtue of modesty. The rough carving traces and marks of the hair make a contrast with the smooth skin carving, but the texture does not conflict with each other but achieve the balance of the whole piece of the sculpture.
JR: How important is it for you to have beauty present in your life? In what ways is it important or, what, if anything, does it contribute to your life?
RW: When I think about the beauty in my life, I have to face my limitation of intellectual recognition and understanding of beauty. Beauty is a sort of direction for me to look forward, it may be always wrong and mislead me into a misunderstanding and make me struggle with the ugliness, but the inspiration of beauty and the ubiquity of beauty still urge me to find the direction again and again. Beauty is the most complicated conception and it involves every aspect of life. It is not only my aspiration of beauty but also the inevitability for human beings to pursue the conception of beauty consciously or unconsciously. To find the beauty in the true sense or subjectively think I am looking for beauty, not only to know the direction of the beauty but also to recognize my position and the ugliness. The process of understanding beauty is also the process of understanding ugliness. Only when we know what is ugliness and evil, we will know the value of beauty and kindness. For my life, to pursue the idea of beauty is not to possess it but to believe it and recognize it, and recognize myself and ugliness at the same time. But we are human who always have limitations and cravings, we always struggle in the ugliness of the material world and phenomenological puzzles. Beauty is the faith for me to lie my soul in a certain way, believe the existence of beauty is the belief of myself, to believe when I have nothing can identify me in the material world, what I still have is the belief and recognition of beauty. Although it may always wrong, it still gives the meaning of life.